Teaching assistant Apprenticeships proving popular as take-up grows

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Young people are being given the opportunity to train as teaching assistants, with the option of going on to become teachers, through a pioneering Apprenticeship scheme aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds.

The programme, being run by Youthforce, started in schools in Portsmouth but has since expanded to Southampton, Brighton and High Wycombe.

In all, more than 30 primaries and 15 secondary schools are giving apprentices the opportunity to gain valuable work experience as part of their courses.

Richard Davis, Youthforce’s partnerships associate, said the scheme represented excellent value for schools, which were providing vital experience and expertise in developing potential future teaching assistants, learning support assistants and teachers.

“Apprentices are funded through the Skills Funding Agency, and in the first year of the Apprenticeships they can be paid anything above the minimum wage (for apprentices) of £2.68 per hour,” he explained.

“As this is generally 30 hours a week it means an apprentice can earn around £80 a week, or £2,680 a year when you take into account government support to part-fund their earnings. This makes it a huge opportunity for schools.

“Generally schools pay apprentices from £80 to £240 a week depending on the budget they have available.”

Youthforce recruits and vets the apprentices and matches them up as closely as possible with the needs and requirements of schools. In many cases, after the two years of the Apprenticeship, the schools offer full-time roles to the staff they have trained up.

Increasingly, Apprenticeships are being perceived as a key route to higher education and some apprentices will continue their training and education to become fully qualified teachers. 

Although Apprenticeships are open to young people from the age of 16, those going to work in schools will be in their early 20s.

One apprentice, Daisy Holland, works at Redwood Park, in Portsmouth, a special school for 11 to 16-year-olds who have learning difficulties.

She told SecEd: “It is massively challenging work. The young people come with complex needs, and everything I do as a teaching assistant needs to be thought through carefully so children are in the best place to learn.” 

She now plans to work towards becoming a specialised teacher of special needs.

Mr Davis added: “Initially many schools saw the apprentice programme as a way of boosting staff numbers and providing affordable cover. 

“But now we’re seeing that the apprentices on the Youthforce programme bring real worth in specialist support, improving the school experience for children.”

The Youthforce scheme is expanding and has started to become heavily over-subscribed. Recently, there were 450 applicants for 25 vacancies. 

Prospective applicants considering a teacher assistant Apprenticeship should have good GCSE grades in English, mathematics and ICT.

Mr Davis said that schools involved in the scheme tended to take on a minimum of two Apprenticeships, although one secondary is looking to recruit 12 to work as part of its learning support team.


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